Sofar Sounds – a house in St Andrews, Bristol

Saturday 16th November, 2019

Instead of rushing home to write this, I’m not sure I can be bothered to write about this gig at all!

Sofar is a concept, whereby house parties and other unique venues are used to put on a range of acts. You apply to go not knowing who will be playing or where and if selected (about 2 weeks beforehand) you can buy tickets for about £12. This goes on all over the world.

I was dubious but had friends who had been to ones in Bristol and said they were good. I don’t mind the not knowing who is playing, I go to random gigs all the time, but not knowing the venue was kinda anxiety inducing. Especially as someone who does not drive as Bristol’s public transport isn’t exactly great and I cannot afford taxis. Knowing the rough area isn’t really enough to be able to plan.

This Sofar was in a house and I was sat on a table, although there were a few chairs available, the majority of the 60 odd strong audience were sat on the floor. That is not something my back or joints could have managed.

The rest of the crowd were a lot younger than me and way hipper. I would not have managed to be there alone, it was only because Tom was with me that I could deal with feeling quite so out of place. The vibe was young, hip and Saturday night party. None of things that fit me. I’m more comfortable in a concert hall or folk club!

The music acts themselves weren’t bad. They just weren’t good either. Other than the middle act (Austel) I was pretty underwhelmed. Jonny Morgan seemed like a perfectly nice white, middle class boy with a guitar, but the music industry isn’t exactly short of those is it? His voice was good enough, but neither that or his songs had anything special that marked them out. I can’t remember a single one now, only a few days later.

Austel – the only female musician of the night – played synth pop with a dark edge and her voice was clear as crystal and showed her classical training background. I quite liked her stuff and she was by far the best of the bunch.

Elephant Radio, the last group. Well, they were introduced by the host with an anecdote about how they got thrown out of a strip club in Amsterdam. Not cool. On any level. Of all the things we could have been told about this group of 4 lads, this was the story you chose to go with? I was annoyed at the level of casual sexism, that this sort of “banter” from, about and for the “lads” was considered acceptable. It isn’t. As if I couldn’t have felt any less comfortable, I pretty much now wanted to leave. The music Elephant Radio made was pretty standard, generic indie rock, with synths, drums, guitar and bass. Again, four white lads making music you’ve heard in a million iterations before.

There was nothing fresh or exciting about this gig and we did actually leave before the end to make sure we got the train home.

I would like to say that this was my first and last Sofar sounds gig, but I had stupidly bought a ticket for one in December before going to this. I may just lose my money and not go. An evening on my actual sofa is considerably more appealing!

Essentially I am not the target market for Sofar. Which, given how much I love and support live music is a real shame. Like so many cultural events, they are dreamed up by white middle class people of relative privlege, wealth and health who pay no attention whatsoever to making themselves welcoming and inclusive of anything that is not exactly like them. I am never going to feel comfortable in those situations.

I am sure there are people for whom Sofar is an amazing experience and musicians for whom it gives valuable exposure. For me, it was a waste of an evening and I honestly wish I’d not gone.

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